My wait is finally over. After five weeks of waiting my second place trophy for the Princess Enchanted 10K arrived in the mail today. It’s prettier than I ever imagined it would be. You can read my race report here.
Way Too Cool weekend started out a little different this year. I usually head up to Auburn on Friday and go straight to Auburn Running Company to pick up my bib. This year Auburn Running Company with help from Auburn Alehouse was hosting a screening of Journeyfilm’s latest short film, The Long Haul. The film documents Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe’s fastest known time effort on the John Muir Trail.
Before the film Western States race director Craig Thornley let us know that the proceeds of the film were going towards the American River Conservancy‘s effort to purchase 10,000 acres adjacent to the Granite Chief Wilderness. Purchasing this land will help to ensure the continuation of the Western States Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup. Next was a quick intro from filmmakers JB and Jen Benna and then it was time for the show.
The film was put together as an afterthought from iPhone and GoPro footage but it doesn’t feel like it. The scenery is breathtaking and would have stolen the show if it weren’t for Hal and Mike. Hal Koerner is a known personality in the trail running world and the film portrays him as the goofball we expect. While I know who Mike Wolfe is I haven’t really seen much of him before and his personality really shines through in the film. It is a fun film and I would recommend it to anyone interested in trail running.
Since I chose to go to the film screening I didn’t have time to pick up my bib. That meant I would have to wake up a little earlier and pick it up race morning. Not a big deal and if anything I might get a better parking spot because of it. WRONG! I ended up getting there about 6:30 and had to park about three quarters of a mile away. Luckily bib pickup was a breeze.
The past two years I’ve tried to start this race conservatively and failed miserably. The first mile is on a paved road before hitting the Olmstead Loop Trail and everyone jockeys for position before hitting the single track. If you get stuck behind a slower person you could be in their conga line for a while as you wait for an opportunity to pass. This year I gave in to history and went out at a decent clip knowing I wouldn’t hold myself back.
After a quick mile clocking in at 6:43 we hit the trails of Olmstead. Shortly after the trail begins we normally have to cross Knickerbocker Creek. This year someone carried a small bridge down down to the creek which was nice but in a way takes a little something away from the race. Two miles later I paid for my lack of time training on the trails and clipped a root which sent me rolling down a grassy hill. Luckily I was at the back of a line of runners and was able to easily hop back on. I’d end up falling on this loop one more time but it wasn’t as exciting but it was a solid reminder to keep my eyes on the trail. Around 6.8 miles into the race you have to cross Knickerbocker for the second time. This section is significantly wider and deeper and always fun to blast through. I ended up finishing the 8-mile loop in 1:01:33 which is about a minute and a half faster than I’ve done before.
The next section of course is mostly flat with a few rolling hills. I just cruised this hoping to recover a little and took the opportunity to down a GU before the biggest downhill section on the course began. Last year I pushed the downhill too hard which led to blown out hamstrings later in the race. This year I chose to float down the hill.
After crossing Highway 49 you run along the Quarry Trail which parallels the middle fork of the American River. This section is mostly flat with a few small climbs thrown in to keep it interesting. Shortly after grabbing another GU and exiting the Lower Quarry aid station around mile 11 I realized I was on a 50K PR pace. Knowing my history of blowing up on this course and the fact that all the climbing is packed at the end of the course I pushed the thought away. The one thing I couldn’t push away was a rock in my shoe so I had to make a quick pit stop to remove it.
16.7 miles in you reach the Maine Bar aid station. Unfortunately by the time I got here my stomach was starting to turn on me and all I could stomach was a boiled potato. I was planning to get down at least one GU an hour but the thought of one at this point wasn’t appealing. Onward and upwards!
Around mile 18 you hit the first climb of the course. It’s roughly two miles of climbing and then about a mile down to the Auburn Lakes Trail (ALT) aid station. In the past I’ve had to hike most of this for various reasons. This year it seemed relatively easy to climb and I passed a few runners here. Not being injured or sick for the first time here made a huge difference.
After a quick bottle refill and an orange slice at the ALT aid station I headed back onto the trail. This is another section I’ve always regretted not being able to run well. It’s a few miles of rolling downhill until you get to the infamous Goat Hill. Even though I was feeling really good I was running cautiously. I wanted a decent time on this course and I didn’t want to blow up for the first time on it. I locked into the easy pace of the runner in front of me and let him lead the way.
Around mile 23 I looked back and noticed a group of three runners gaining on us. Less then a half a mile later they were on us and I stepped off the trail to let them pass. After stepping off I realized I recognized the group. Jen Benna was leading with JB Benna and Tim Twietmeyer (5X Western States champ) right behind her. The guy I was pacing off didn’t yield to them so I was able to hop on to the back of their group. Jen and JB passed the other guy and were quickly gone but Tim stuck with us for about a mile. It was kind of cool to run directly in his footsteps for a while.
The dreaded Goat Hill didn’t seem so bad this year. I still had to hike most of the third of a mile long climb but I ran some of the middle section where it levels a little bit and made it to the top about 45 seconds faster than I had in the past. It’s a small victory but I’ll take it.
After topping off my bottles at the aid station at the top of the hill I checked to make sure I was still on pace for a PR. In theory, I still could break my ‘A’ goal of going sub 4:30. The only thing standing in my way was one more rocky climb at mile 29. I ended up making it up that hill about a minute and a half faster than I previously had but it wasn’t enough. After a short run through the grassy meadow and I crossed the finish line in 4:32:18.
After crossing the finish line I headed over to the Athlete’s Village to grab some grub which was catered by The Cork and Fork and the famous Way Too Cool frog cupcake. Then I waited for my friend Kayden to cross the finish line and secure a huge PR of his own.
My previous 50K PR was 4:42:42 at Fort Ord and my fastest Way Too Cool time was 4:47:54 in 2013. After a pitiful racing year last year I’m celebrating every success this year and I’ve had a few good ones. As proud as I am of my performance, it is humbling to run in this race. Way Too Cool draws incredible talent and I finished 100th overall. Patrick Smyth of Nike’s Elite Trail Racing Team set the course record of 3:04:48 and Megan Roche set the women’s record of 3:41:56 that day!
After running races at Disneyland since 2007 I finally got the chance to run a race at Walt Disney World. The Princess Half Marathon wasn’t my first choice but since all of my runDisney friends and family are women I lost that vote. That’s okay because I was finally going to get my Coast to Coast medal which you get for running a half marathon or greater at each park in the same calendar year. I usually don’t care much for the bonus medals but this one is pretty cool.
I’ve done a few multi-day race challenges before and I’ve had a hard time balancing efforts between the races. This time I was doing the Glass Slipper Challenge which consists of the Enchanted 10K on Saturday and the Princess Half Marathon on Sunday. Since men aren’t eligible to receive awards in the Princess Half Marathon I planned to race the 10K and use the half as an easy paced training run. Since the Star Wars Half Marathon I had been doing a bit of speed work on the track and I was looking to PR. The only thing that would work against me was our arrival date and itinerary. We landed in Florida on the Sunday before the race and would spend five days walking around theme parks before the 10K.
Saturday morning came early. As in 2:30 AM early! I had heard warnings from several people that you should try to be on one of the first shuttles to the race from the hotel. At 3:20 we made our way down to the buses which started running at 3:30. The first was full and we hopped right on the second one. No lines, no fuss. A few minutes later we were unloaded in the Epcot parking lot.
After hanging out for about an hour I headed over to my corral. Positioning was a little tricky since there is a corral staging area where they hold you until the group is escorted over to the starting line. A few people jumped in front of me on the way over but I weaseled my way back onto the starting line. After some words from the reigning Miss America, Kira Kazantsev our Fairy Godmother counted down and started the race!
I took off and found myself with an early lead. Maybe a quarter mile later Leonard Jackson shot by me and quickly dropped me. I had no intention of trying to hang with him since he was clearly much faster. My new goal was to try to hold position for the next six miles.
About a half mile in we went under an overpass where Frozen’s Anna and Elsa were hanging out. They were also blowing fake snow which I sucked in and nearly gagged on. At the first mile we did a U-turn and were greeted by the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. No time to wait, I’m late! Shortly thereafter we passed Tinker Bell and her sister Periwinkle. It was fitting to have the frost-talent fairy out on the chilly morning. Yeah, I know too much about fairies. My daughter loves them.
Before I knew it I had hit the 5K mark with a split of 18:47. This is about when the five days of walking around theme parks caught up to me. I slowed a bit on the fourth mile and knew it was going to be a fight to the finish.
About four and a half miles into the race we entered Epcot. I have never been in this park before but I wasn’t able to take in any of the sights. In all honesty between the darkness in the park and focusing on holding it together this portion of the race is a blur. I do remember passing Jiminy Cricket and Marie from Aristocats. Right after exiting the park my bike escort peeled off and I knew it was a sprint to the finish.
I crossed the finish line is 38:33 in second place overall! 9 seconds ahead of the third place finisher. I know this being a women’s themed race the competition isn’t as strong as usual but I’m excited to have placed in such a highly attended race (10,989 finishers). I was a little surprised that no one said anything to me after the race. After walking through the finish chute I asked information about awards and they said it would come in the mail.
Sunday was another early wake up call. For the half marathon the buses started running at 3:00 AM! I think we woke up at 2:15 and headed down to the buses at 2:50. Painfully early is all I really remember. Once again, there was little hassle or wait to get on the bus and we were in the Epcot parking lot in no time.
After hanging out on the bleachers in the family reunion area for about an hour we shuffled over to the corrals. Most people said it was about a mile walk from the reunion area to the corrals and it seemed close to that. Once I located corral B* it was time to wait for another hour for the race to start (*men can’t start in A).
The day’s agenda was vastly different than what I’m used to. I was going to take it easy and stop at most of the character photo stops. With a bunch of races coming up I didn’t want to put myself in a potion where I was spending time recovering from a fast half marathon that didn’t matter to me.
The course would take us through the Magic Kingdom and then back to the finish outside Epcot. Unlike the Disneyland races, most of the time is spent running on roads outside the parks. There is significantly less park time than the Disneyland races but since all of the roads are on Disney property you get character photo stops along the way.
I’m not going to go into much detail about the race since it was mostly uneventful. Instead I’ll just share all my character photos! The only ones I remember I didn’t stop for were Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Sophia the First.
After a short jaunt through Epcot I crossed the finish line in 1:36:57. Good for 15th man overall. I collected my medals including the Glass Slipper Challenge medal for running the 10K and the half marathon and my Coast to Coast Challenge medal for running a half and Disneyland (Star Wars Half Marathon) and this one at Walt Disney World.
It was a great week in Florida and I enjoyed spending time with my family and taking my daughters to WDW for the first time. While I enjoyed the races, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to run another runDisney race at WDW any time soon. My home park of Disneyland offers a better experience without the huge cost of travel. My only complaint is that there wasn’t an award ceremony after the 10K. I know it isn’t the marque race of the weekend but you would think a race with 11,000 people would have one. I’ll just have to wait to get my trophy in the mail.
I’m back. 2014 was a rough year and my fitness and running slipped. I watched all of my times creep up and performed horribly at the races I focused on. In July I ran my first 100-miler, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. The learning curve was huge and while I thought I was in shape to do well, I made a few mistakes along the way and paid for them. I finished in 31 hours and 35 minutes. That was a long time to be out there and it took even longer to recover from. In August, September, and October I hardly logged any miles.
Towards the end of October I started training for a series of half marathons I had already registered for. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angels Half Marathon, the Morgan Hill Half Marathon, and runDisney’s Avengers Half Marathon. I progressively improved my times from a 1:41 at Los Angels down to a 1:35 at Avengers. Still a far cry from what I am capable of.
That brings us to 2015. I’ve been working hard. Track Tuesday is now a staple of my workout week. My training volume is increasing at a slow but steady rate as I prepare for a slew of upcoming ultras, but before that I had something to prove to myself. That I can still run a fast. Fast for me at least.
The first test was the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend! I would be running the 5K and the Rebel Challenge which consisted of the Star Wars 10K and the Star Wars Half Marathon the following day. I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan my entire life so a race that is put on by runDisney that revolves around Star Wars could not be missed.
On Thursday we attended the expo for the race. Merchandise for this one was going to be a hot commodity and likely fly off the shelves. Luckily we got there early enough that we were able to get everything we were looking for. I picked up a few pins and a pint glass. It ended up being relatively painless since runDisney had us queue up in a conference room where they were playing Empire Strikes Back on a big screen.
Friday brought the Star Wars 5K which I ran with my wife and oldest daughter. We had a blast running through Disneyland and California Adventure. The lines for photos were pretty long but we couldn’t resist stopping for Chewie! After the race we collected our C-3PO medals and headed off to the parks.
Next up was the Star Wars 10K on Saturday. I had originally planned to take this race easy so I could save myself for the half marathon on Sunday but at the last minute I decided to see if I could race both. I took the first four miles at a relatively easy pace averaging a 6:20 mile which I thought would be enough to put me in a good position to get an age group award while still saving something for the half. The next couple miles I ended up running in no mans land by myself and slowed a bit to save even more. This ended up being a huge mistake as I ended up being bumped out of third place in my age group by a mere 5 seconds. I ended with a time of 39:45, a PR, and in 19th place overall and 4th in my age group.
After just missing out on an age group award in the 10K I was going to give the half marathon everything I had left. The first 9 miles went well and I was on PR pace. Then I paid for pushing it on the 10K the day before. The wheels fell off and my pace increased by 30 seconds a mile until the end. I finished in 1:26:52. My second fastest half marathon which I am quite proud of considering I’m still on the comeback trail. Unfortunately, I missed out on an age group award for the second day in a row. This time by 39 seconds.
June was the month that I was eagerly anticipating and dreading at the same time. It was to be my highest volume of mileage ever as I trained for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July. The plan was to hit 400 miles for the month with 90 in the first week, 100 in the second, 110 in the third, and back down to 100 in the fourth. I had never done a single week of 100 miles so I was nervous and excited to see how I would hold out averaging 100 for four weeks.
The first week of June went very smoothly. I had taken the last week of May pretty easy in order to rest for what was to come. I ended up with 90 miles with 9,700 feet of elevation gain.
In the second week I finally crossed the 100 mile per week line for the first time in my running history. So far the plan was working pretty flawlessly. I was doing most of the running at relatively easy paces since doing this kind of volume was uncharted territory for me.
During the third week the wheels started coming off the wagon a little bit. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I had horrible runs. I felt lethargic and like my legs were dead. Then all of a sudden I had an incredible run on Sunday and set a few Strava segment PRs. 110 miles in the book for the week which is my highest volume ever and probably will be for a while.
Disaster struck on Monday of the fourth week. I was out shopping and when I went to grab a case of soda out from under the shopping cart to put on the register I pulled something in my back. This was on my rest day out of all days! I imagine it happened so easily because my body was fatigued. I took Tuesday off to nurse my injury. During this time I isolated the pain and figured it was my Piriformis and not my back. I’ve dealt with this problem before and know it actually helps to run through the pain. My week was somewhat salvaged.
After some serious massage on my Piriformis I was set to hit the road again. On Wednesday I put in a couple easy 6 milers to test out the back. It was still sore from the tension the tight Piriformis was placing on it but it felt better after I was done running. I fell short of my goal of 100 miles for the week but I was grateful to get some decent mileage after the back scare. It is still not 100% but should be by race day.
I ended the month with 385 miles with 44,304 feet of vertical gain. I didn’t hit my goal of 400 miles but I’m fine with that. The more important goal is making it to the TRT100 starting line healthy. As an added bonus I ended up ranking pretty high on the Strava June Monthly Training Series (MTS) leader board. My 620km placed me at 16/39,702 runners participating. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the first page of a Strava challenge leader board.
Total Activities: 32
Total Hours: 63
Running Miles: 385
Racing Miles: 0
Strava Challenges Completed
I finally started ramping up my training volume in May by logging 78 more miles than April. This is just the beginning too. I’m hoping for a huge June to set myself up for a shot of going under 24 hours at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July. Speaking of which, I also finished the last four of eight required volunteer hours doing trail work on a new section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. That means I’m fully qualified to run the 100 miler.
This month Suunto sponsored the Sisu Challenge on Strava. Sisu is a Finnish word that means going against the odds and displaying courage. For the challenge we were supposed to courageously go beyond our limits and log 65 kilometers (40.4mi) between May 17th and June 1st. 20 miles a week is pretty low to be considered a challenge. It looks like they kept the bar low for a reason. Anyone who completes the “challenge” is eligible to purchase a Suunto Ambit2 R GPS watch with a heart rate monitor for $250.
May was a good stepping stone in my training for Tahoe. June will be my biggest month of training ever and I’m looking forward to seeing how my body responds to the increased running volume.
Total Activities: 29
Total Hours: 46
Running Miles: 282
Racing Miles: 0
Strava Challenges Completed
I didn’t achieve the running volume I was hoping for in April. Sometimes life gets in the way and you just have to roll with the flow. I was able to knock out two good weeks while letting the mileage slip during the other two. I was also able to fulfill 4 of the 8 hours of volunteer trail work that are required for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 which I will be running in July. This month Strava finally gave runners a new challenge. For the week between the London Marathon and the Boston Marathon we had to run the distance of a marathon to complete the Marathon Challenge. I really need to get my volume up next month no matter what life throws at me.
Total Activities: 26
Total Miles: 206
Total Hours: 30
Running Miles: 206
Racing Miles: 0